Language is a cruel tool, which can be used for better or worse consciously or unconsciously. There is nothing new about this because language is a basic tool for communication and the foundation of civilization.
Normally, we hardly pay any attention to language usage including the choice of words, which is an integral part of it. On the other hand, the Finns who were formerly living in rural villages really knew which linguistic gimmicks to use. It was typical of peasants to avoid saying it straight. Instead, they kept beating about the bush. Never did they get straight to the point, particularly if the subject of conversation was unpleasant or interesting to the one asking the questions. The real ideas and intentions of rural people were understood by the listener only later, if ever. This was the case especially with town residents who were really humiliated without noticing it when they were listening to this byzantine rural chitchat. It was only those living in a certain village well familiar with this code that understood that the stranger was being mocked. Language usage is deeply rooted in the Finnish culture and in the dialectal areas including the ethnic groups living in those areas.
In language usage, choices of words are significant in that they result in hidden connotations, which are almost impossible to notice. Single words can give the content of a message a nuance that affects the impression the listener/reader consciously or unconsciously gets. The final interpretation made by the reader of an academic text may be reversed due to the choice of words. Still, the writer is not lying. Scientifically speaking, the writer has to stick to facts. However, language as a tool gives quite a margin without the writer having to deviate from the truth. The choices make it. They can turn black almost white and vice versa. This really requires skill but also includes some risks.
Still, it seems that the use of English is not without problems either as exemplified by some statements made by Stephen Elop, the new CEO of Nokia. It is true that Mr. Elop is Canadian by birth. Canadian English differs from British English as the Savo dialect differs from the dialect spoken in Western Finland. The latest problem with words is related to the depth and ultimate purpose of the cooperation between Nokia and Microsoft. According to an article originally published in the Financial Times and quoted by the Kauppalehti magazine on 12 January, some words used by Mr Elop have caused trouble or have been interpreted as troublesome once again. These honorable financial magazines have paid a lot of attention to the term ‘co-dependency’. According to the interpretation of certain experts, the term implies that both Nokia and Microsoft will go bankrupt if their cooperation fails. The only person who knows the truth about the content of the message is Stephen Elop himself. An earlier metaphor (a burning oilrig) cited by Elop made the Nokia exchange rate plunge. Many Finns lost half the value of their stock portfolios in six months.
Principal Lecturer of Business Oper.
Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences